Rachel Withers wins presidential ballot in surprise outcome

Tuesday, 9 September, 2014


Rachel Withers will take the reigns as 2015 student union President, after winning the student elections by a very narrow margin.

As the 5 o’ clock chime rang out over campus, student politicians collectively expressed a sigh of relief after a week of rigorous campaigning. From 1 to 5 September, students from 17 different tickets wore distinctively coloured t-shirts, distributing campaign flyers for the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) Elections for 2015. The candidates have now been elected to run the offices, committees, and councils in 2015.

3,780 ballots were filled in, meaning about 9.45 per cent of all students at the university voted. This is a minute decrease from last year’s election, in which 3,783 students voted.

Withers represents ignite, a coalition of Labor-right and a few other student groups. She won the ballot by just 94 votes, defeating Stephanie Kilpatrick of Stand Up! (1,515 to 1,421).

There was also a slight difference in the votes for General Secretary, with Hana Dalton (Stand Up!) elected by 78 votes.

During her presidency, Withers aims to expose students to the lesser known services offered by UMSU.

“UMSU really does a lot of wonderful things that not enough students seem to be aware of, and I want to make sure that the union directs people towards services and activities that we offer,” she said.

Withers also aims to create a Student Mentoring Network, which provides an opportunity to connect new or existing students experiencing a specific issue to one who is able to give advice on the issue.

“[Students] can become trained mentors to new or existing students and share their knowledge on how to handle the limitation and be a sympathetic ear.”

Farrago contacted Kilpatrick for comment but received no response.

Stand Up!—which held the majority of positions in the 2014 union—remains prominent. The party has candidates elected to both the Education (Academic) and the Education (Public) offices, as well as the Welfare and Wom*ns offices.

Other Stand Up! candidates have been elected to positions of higher ranking, with incumbent UMSU president Declan McGonigle elected as University Council Fellow, and Steven Connolly as MU Student Board Ltd board-elect.

Conor Serong, Education Public Officer-elect aims to raise awareness of the university’s Business Improvement Program and its consequences.

“Despite its cheerful name, [the BIP] threatens to sack staff and cut services throughout the university in the name of saving money,” he said.

Serong is also proud of Stand Up!’s success in the elections.

“We ran an exceptionally strong campaign, which resonated with a huge number of students who I spoke to throughout election week, and I think the results mostly speak for themselves.”